America's Banquet of Cultures: Harnessing Ethnicity, Race, and Immigration in the Twenty-First Century

America's Banquet of Cultures: Harnessing Ethnicity, Race, and Immigration in the Twenty-First Century

America's Banquet of Cultures: Harnessing Ethnicity, Race, and Immigration in the Twenty-First Century

America's Banquet of Cultures: Harnessing Ethnicity, Race, and Immigration in the Twenty-First Century

Synopsis

The melting pot is a myth, according to Fernandez. The United States is and always has been a banquet of cultures. Thus, he argues, the best way to deal with the millions of new immigrants is to accept, recognize, and eagerly explore the differences among the American people.

Excerpt

His great grandmother was a proud member of a tribe that "never enslaved" the Africans who escaped plantation life. Family historians say that Edward's grandmother, half-African, half-Seminole, also had a very special skill: She spoke Chinese, an ability acquired after twenty years of work in a Florida laundry.

When the federal government forcibly exiled the Seminoles to Oklahoma, some refused to go. Using everything from canoes to rafts, these Seminoles paddled into the Caribbean or stowed away on trading ships bound for the neighboring islands. Thus, Edward's great grandfather was Bahamian and a subject of the king of England; others relatives were Cuban and subjects of the king of Spain. Somehow they all settled in Florida, where some of Edward's kin spoke Spanish, some did not, and all called themselves colored on a good day and "niggers" when the white crackers snapped their whiplike tongues.

Color always trumped ethnicity when Edward was a child. Like the eraser on a giant pencil, the one-drop (of African blood) rule simultaneously expunged Edward's Seminole, Bahamian, and Cuban roots. They corralled our people into neighborhoods marked "colored," and the only time Edward saw a white person was in the background threats of his mom. Just before she spanked him for an offense, the angry, tired woman would loudly proclaim, "I'll kill you before I'll let them kill you." "Them" meant white people, the almost nonexistent" force that nevertheless dominated every moment of the boy's segregated existence. "You hope someone made a mistake"; you believe or convince yourself that if you "touch all the bases," you can play the game.

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